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Posts Tagged ‘growing vegetables in containers’

Tomato seedlings under the lights

Where did spring go?

Eric and I spent most of Saturday and Sunday in the vegetable garden getting it ready for the coming planting season. Eric cut down two cedar trees that were shading one end of the garden while I tilled the area for the tomatoes and cukes and set the trellises.

Our six trellises are set and ready to plant. We're just waiting for warmer nights.

Our 6 trellises are set and ready to plant.
We’re just waiting for warmer nights.

The weekend was warm and beautiful but the nights have become cool again – too cool really for putting out tomato plants especially since our last frost date here is May 15th. The warm days made it very tempting to plant but when I thought of all the time that went into growing my beautiful, healthy tomato plants that temptation waned pretty quickly. It would cost a small fortune to replace the plants (I have over 50 plants) if we happened to get a late frost and many of the heirloom varieties I grew could not be replaced from a store anyway. So they remain on the deck in our cold frame which gets covered at night if the temperature is forecast to go below 50oF. Now I heard it is supposed to dip into the 30’s Monday night! Gosh, I might have to bring them indoors! Well at least they’ll be nicely hardened off when planting time comes, so we’ll be able to pop them right in the ground.

Beautiful strong tomatoes. This was taken 2 weeks ago. They are twice this size now!

My beautiful tomato seedlings 2 weeks
ago. They are twice this size now!

I have prepared a wonderful, fluffy soil for the tomatoes. The bed is tilled nice and deep thanks to my good old tiller and I have amended the soil with Espoma Tomato-tone, rock phosphate, and some of the good Blue Ridge Organics Super Compost. Tomato-tone is a great organic fertilizer for tomatoes because it has added calcium which helps prevent blossom end rot.

I have decided that my experiment of starting my tomato and pepper seeds in the Blue Ridge Organics compost was a success. They grew really well. In fact, they grew so well and so fast that I now realize that I should not have started them so soon. I didn’t expect them to take off like they did – it’s never happened before. That’s one of the reasons I was tempted to plant them last weekend plus the fact that I won’t be home to plant this weekend or next weekend.

Lettuce growing on the deck

The lettuce hits the top of the cage now!

The lettuce that I seeded in the cells grew really well, too. About 5 weeks ago, we separated the seedlings in each cell and planted them out into two of our large square containers on the deck. We put cages around them to keep the pesky squirrels out and covered them with row cover for a few days since they weren’t hardened off. They thrived in these containers which I also spiked with Blue Ridge Organics compost. I love this stuff! We have been eating fresh lettuce in salads now for almost 3 weeks.

The lettuce containers were covered with row cover until they became hardened off.

The lettuce containers were covered with row cover for a
few days until the plants were hardened off.

Delicious lettuce mix

Delicious lettuce mix

When I harvest, I use a knife to cut the lettuce about an inch above the soil level. This way the lettuce is so clean, I don’t even have to wash it. It also leaves the lettuce crown and roots intact to continue producing more lettuce. Fresh leaves are already growing on these plants and soon I’ll be able to harvest from them again.

Now that I think about it, it doesn’t really matter that I will be away this weekend because it will be way to wet to work in the garden anyway. We’ve just had at least 3.5″ of rain with this weather system that has been sitting and spinning over much of the mid-Atlantic for the past three days and more rain is in the forecast. I’m concerned that the carrot and beet seeds that I planted on Sunday may have washed away or at a minimum become shifted in the beds so that my all my careful spacing of those tiny carrot seeds might now be all for naught! Bummer, I hate thinning (and replanting)!

We covered the broccoli bed with row cover pinned to the ground to protect them from nasty green caterpillars.

We covered the broccoli bed with row
cover pinned to the ground to protect
them from nasty green caterpillars.

Here’s one last piece of advice – if you’ve had any where near the amount of rain that we’ve just had, don’t be tempted to go out and work in your garden! Working the soil or even walking on it when it is wet is a really bad thing to do. It destroys the soil structure by compressing the soil particles tightly together so that the pore spaces that hold air and water are lost. It can quickly turn good soil into something akin to concrete. Wait until the soil has had a chance to dry before returning to your tilling and planting. You’ll know the soil is okay to work when a handful of soil squeezed into a ball breaks apart when you tap on it.

Be patient! Soil structure, once ruined, takes a long time to rebuild.

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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